Getting consistent and valuable production from tight ends is very difficult in fantasy football. Most years there are only a few players at this position that produce worthwhile points on a weekly basis.
This year is no exception. Getting a player like Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, or Antonio Gates is a great addition to a fantasy roster. The only problem is that it will cost the owners who draft them an early selection, most likely a third or early fourth round pick.
Depending on the flow of the draft, it sometimes makes good sense to draft one of the top tight ends during those early rounds.
Many times, when 30-40 players are off the board, it seems wise to grab one the few elite tight ends, since the alternative would be selecting a low-end number three running back, a wide receiver who can be lumped with about a dozen others of similar value, or a decent quarterback that you know will be available for a few more rounds.
I can speak from experience that it can be quite exhilarating to be one of the few teams in a fantasy league to get valuable points from a tight end.
However, sometimes the flow of the draft prevents us from having the opportunity to grab one of those elite tight ends, at least not without “reaching” for one of them.
For the teams who do not draft a top tight end early, I would advise targeting Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Celek is entering his third year in the NFL, and is primed for a breakout season. He will likely be available in the middle to late rounds, making him an excellent value pick.
With the departure of veteran L.J. Smith, the starting job belongs to Celek. He has impressed teammates and coaches with his dedication and teamwork. He developed an excellent rapport with quarterback Donavon McNabb as the season wore on in 2008.
In fact, in three playoff games last year, Celek was the Eagles’ leading receiver with 19 receptions for 151 yards and three touchdowns. He set a franchise playoff record in the NFC Championship game by hauling in 10 catches which he turned in for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
During the regular season Celek produced 27 receptions for 318 yards and a touchdown, which is not too bad considering he started only seven games, and also had to share playing time with Smith and Matt Schobel.
On the Eagles' web site, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had this to say about Celek: "Brent is a player who is a consistent performer. I think it is important to know what Brent's strengths are and you work him there. He produces. He is consistent. He is dependable.
You call his number and he's going to get it done. You call a run to his side and he's going to get it (block) done. You call a run away from him and he is going to get the cutoff block. He is just so consistent and dependable, and there is a trust factor that goes into it. Coaches and the rest of the players naturally trust the man to get the job done, and that is so very important."
That statement gives me plenty of confidence that Celek will be a key contributor in the Eagles’ pass-happy offense. McNabb showed down the stretch of the 2008 season that he has plenty of trust in Celek, and he will look for him in the red zone.
The downside is that there are plenty of weapons in the Eagles offense, with Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, and rookie Jeremy Maclin. This means Celek has a lot of competition for McNabb’s targets.
Also, there are plenty of talented second-tier tight ends such as Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels, John Carlson, Zach Miller, and Greg Olsen.
However, while other fantasy teams are drafting these players, I prefer to build my running back and wide receiver depth, and perhaps draft a quarterback or two.
Then I will target Celek as the draft enters the middle rounds. I believe Celek will match or out-produce most of the second-tier tight ends, and he can be drafted anywhere from four to eight rounds later.
While Celek is not ready to be an elite tight end in 2009, he will be an excellent complement to a fantasy team built with quality starters and solid depth.
Projection: 55 receptions, 610 yards, 8 touchdowns.